Subject: Tachinid Fly of Australia
Location: South-East Tasmania
December 14, 2014 8:21 pm
Photo taken 11 Dec 2014, SE Tasmania. Copyright David Irwin, 2014.
Nikon D7100; 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3; F.L. 600mm.
My husband photographed this blowfly sitting above the headlight of our car. It was approximately the size of a human thumb. [Ed Note:  This should be thumb nail.] This photo shows great detail in the face of the fly. I have several images, as the fly stayed put, no matter how close we came. Though we couldn’t get too close, because on that occasion, David had the large 600mm zoom mounted and needed to get a few metres away for it to focus. It also had a very deep hum when it eventually flew off (when I went to compare size to my thumb[nail]). However, the one posted here is the clearest. Hand holding a heavy zoom lense is difficult.
This bug website (Whats This Bug) has 2 distinctly different Tachinid Flies (with a striking white band) on file, one is the ‘Bristle Fly’, or Amphibolia Vidua (my photo submitted), and one is the Formosia Specia, which is detailed in this scientific record:
http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/1f1319a4-d231-4b1c-acf2-86627aff3fb9;jsessionid=9203058C513D7BAD7223F7123AD42FA6
Both flies look similar, but there are distinct differences – I have also detailed the two flies in my FB post here:
https://www.facebook.com/tasmanianartist/photos/a.10154934951460015.1073741869.204763860014/10154928182185015/?type=3&theater
with more photos from flickr, and ‘Atlas of Living Australia’.
What I’ve been able to find out is that Amphibolia vidua has 2 black dots on the white band [and even if they join, they still are identifyable as 2], and Formosia Specia has one black dot on the white band, with 2 white extensions towards the fly’s tail. Their eyes are set differently, too. Both occur in Tasmania, and Australian mainland.
cheers from down under
Signature: Marlies

Bristle Fly

Bristle Fly

Dear Marlies,
Thanks for your rigorous pursuit of the identity of your Bristle Fly,
Amphibolia vidua, and also for explaining the differences between this species and Formosia (Euamphibolia) speciosa, another Bristle Fly or Tachinid Fly in the same family.

Hello Daniel
What a journey that was! A fly took charge of almost an entire week! But it was fun :-)
I must say, I was a little distracted by my heart monitor, and other associated ‘things’, and haven’t exactly paid attention too much whether I made any sense at all – I do apologize if I confused everyone.
My husband photographed Amphibolia Vidua. This is the image I submitted. I then found another image attached to the Australian site ‘Atlas of Living Australia’, of which I posted the link (http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/1f1319a4-d231-4b1c-acf2-86627aff3fb9;jsessionid=9203058C513D7…); THAT image on that site was of the Formosia Speciosa image that I mentioned. (Yes, both are Tachinid Flies, or Bristle Flies – that took a while to sink in with me, as I had no idea that there was any difference between a fly and a fly, before all of this – tho I know there are flies here that look like honey bees, and they wait for honey bees to come along, then ambush and kill them, I’ve observed them do it).
Here is the link to the image details – I think you may be able to link to the photo (which brings the photo up on your site). http://images.ala.org.au/image/details?imageId=b963f524-b62f-494e-bfde-db2b9b04115c
You also have a photo of a Formosia Speciosa (post titled ‘Australian Tachinid Fly appears to be Formosia speciosa’, and it is the one where I posted all of my ‘findings’, and where you replied to my expansive ramblings).
So, you do have both flies; they’re difficult to distinguish, but somehow, by counting the dots, I managed to join them (pardon the pun). And others clearly identify the Amphibolia Vidua – I’ve posted the relevant flickr posts on my facebook thread about the fly …
https://www.facebook.com/tasmanianartist/photos/a.10154934951460015.1073741869.204763860014/10154928
It’s been a real pleasure fiddling with a peculiar blow fly for once, and to leaf through your website – what a treasure trove; great stuff – love it. If I ever come across a bug again that I can’t identify, your website will certainly be my #1 stop.
I hope that you’ll correct my typo, which says the fly is about the size of a ‘human thumb’ … it certainly is not, it is the size of a HUMAN THUMB NAIL – and I did it twice in the same text.
Best wishes to you
cheerio from downunder
Marlies

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Is this an elm seed bug? Found in Southern CA
Location: N Los Angeles County, Southern California
December 14, 2014 5:26 pm
Hi! I’ve been trying so hard to identify this bug, which just appeared in my back yard this year, maybe early summertime. I’m in north Los Angeles County (town is Littlerock), Southern CA. They’ve gone from lumbering in sort-of lines along the ground to huddling in large numbers around bushes and under wood or metal, to now huddling en masse in the crevices of one of my large chinese elm trees. I took pictures; they are black and red, similar it looks like in shape etc. to your photos of the elm seed bug, but the markings on my bugs seem a bit different. I have various birds living out back (goose, emu, peahen, guinea hen, and occasionally chickens) and am wondering if these bugs are beneficial to my plants and/or birds, or if they are harmful. So far they’re not in the house, but I’m a little worried that might change! I’d appreciate any help you can give me on identifying these cute little huddlers — hopefully they are the good kind! ( I have several more pictures, by the way – your site only allowed me 3 so I tried to pick out the best 3)
Signature: Heidi Brooks

Mediterranean Red Bug

Mediterranean Red Bug

Dear Heidi,
These are Mediterranean Red Bugs,
Scantius aegyptius, a species that was introduced to Southern California several years ago in about 2009 and it finds our climate to its liking, so it is proliferating.  Here is what the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research states:  “Damage: The literature contains very little information regarding the biology of S. aegyptius and Scantius species in general are not considered to be economically important species.  In California, Scantius has been observed feeding on the developing seeds and stems of Knotweed (Polygonum spp.) and Malva (Malva parviflora).  It is likely that S. aegyptius will feed on the seeds of several species of annual herbaceous plants.
The most noticeable impact of S. aegyptius in California will likely be the presence of large numbers of nymphs and adults migrating from drying annual weeds into adjacent developed areas.  These migrations consisting of thousands of individuals can be very conspicuous and lead to large aggregations on small patches of host plants causing concern to local residents who notice these obvious aggregations.”  Though they pose no immediate threat to crops, native plants or animals, the presence of a non-native species in large numbers can have significant effects on native species by displacing them in an ecosystem.

Aggregation of Mediterranean Red Bugs

Aggregation of Mediterranean Red Bugs

Hi Daniel,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond!  I got your email this morning, plus responses on Facebook after I asked about these insects there as well.  I have a British friend who lives in Germany and encounters these red “fire bugs” often in his walks through the woods.  He sent me this link, where I learned more interesting info about them, and I’d like to pass it on to you.  It’s a German site translated into English (thanks, Google), and while parts of the translation are a bit amusing, I did learn more about these little huddle-bugs:
https://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.schaedlingskunde.de%2FSteckbriefe%2Fhtm_Seiten%2FFeuerwanze-Pyrrhocoris-apterus.htm&edit-text&act=url
My friend also said that he notices wasps hang around the red bugs, so not sure if they are tasty to the wasps (or vice-versa).
Thanks again!
Cheers,
Heidi Brooks

Dear Heidi,
The link you provided is for a Firebug, a different species in the same family.  Again, your species is Scantius aegyptius and you can find more information on BugGuide.  When we first posted images of the Mediterranean Red Bug in 2010, we also incorrectly identified it as a very similar looking Firebug.

Wow!  I didn’t notice that – the markings are so specific, with a triangle and 2 dots, I thought they were the same bug.  I’ll have to do a little more research then, I think.  It’s been difficult to find much about these insects, but at least I know that they don’t seem harmful to my plants or people.  Thanks again — your responses mean a lot to me!
Cheers,
Heidi

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December 15, 2014
Book Review:  A Huntsman Spider in My House by Michelle Ray and illustrated by Sylvie Ashford
We quickly jumped on the opportunity to review Michelle Ray’s new children’s book and we are pleased to endorse the message it conveys.  The home does contain many unwelcome pests, but there are also many beneficial species that either accidentally or purposely find themselves inside.  Huntsman Spiders are common in Australia, and they are generally considered benign creatures that do no harm to human inhabitants, yet they are frequently subject to unnecessary carnage because they are large and scary appearing to the uninformed public.  The young, nameless female protagonist of Sylvie Ashford’s charming book speaks in rhyme as she explains the habits of Huntsman Spiders to children as well as to the adults that read the book aloud.  Our personal favorite of all of Sylvie Ashford’s colorful illustrations is the one that accompanies the text “I could squash him with my shoe, but he’s not hurting me.”  We thoroughly endorse educating young children to have more tolerance for the lower beasts in hope of reducing Unnecessary Carnage.  This book is suitable for young children learning to read and it has particular relevance for Australian children.  This book is a nice stocking stuffer.

Unnecessary Carnage averted:  "I could squash him with my shoe, but he's not hurting me."  Illustration by Sylvie Ashford

Unnecessary Carnage averted: “I could squash him with my shoe, but he’s not hurting me.” Illustration by Sylvie Ashford

Subject: Huntsman Spider Children’s Book Review Request
Website: www.littleaussiecritters.com
November 29, 2014 12:43 am
Hi Daniel
I hope you are well.
My name is Michelle Ray and I am a childrens author from Sydney, Australia.
I would like to ask if you would consider writing an honest review on your blog of my new children’s picture book titled ‘A Huntsman Spider In My House’ for 0-5 years, it is educational, charmingly illustrated and fun.
I would love to send you a copy.
I love your blog, book and ethos and support your efforts to promote the life of bugs and spiders of course!
If you are willing, I will pop one in the post to you – please let me know where to send it and if you have any other thoughts.
I hope to hear from you,
best wishes,
Michelle Ray
www.littleaussiecritters.com
Signature: Michelle Ray

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Identifying
Location: Edmonds, WA
December 13, 2014 12:19 pm
Dearest Bugman,
I have lived in western Washington for 43 years. I have never seen this bug before. It was caught in a spiderweb and already dead. I have kept it in a plastic container since late summer DYING to know what it is. Can you help please?
Thanks so much,
Signature: Catherine

Wood Wasp

Wood Wasp

Dear Catherine,
This impressive female Wood Wasp or Horntail might be
Urocerus albicornis, which you can find pictured on BugGuide.  Though the antennae are missing, and we cannot say for certain that your individual had white antennae while living, and though the white “cheeks” are not apparent in your image, the distinctively striped legs are nicely illustrated, and that feature helped us to narrow the identification possibilities.

Wood Wasp

Wood Wasp

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Subject: Xmas Jewel

Location: Queensland, Australia.
December 14, 2014 3:36 pm
Merry Xmas guys. My first encounter at my place today with this Variable Jewel Beetle – Temognatha variabilis.
Displaying the true Aussie spirit with its green and gold colours these guys only appear around Xmas and can vary from yellow to deep red. Thanks for another great year of bugs, hope the next one is even better.
Signature: aussitrev

Variable Jewel Beetle

Variable Jewel Beetle

Happy Holidays Trevor,
We have received several beautiful related individuals in the genus
Temognatha in the past, but this is the first Variable Jewel Beetle of which we are aware in our archives.  There might be a long lost unidentified image somewhere in our extensive archive which will top 20,000 unique posts in early 2015.  As always, your lovely images and interesting information are greatly appreciated.

Variable Jewel Beetle

Variable Jewel Beetle

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Subject: Spider
Location: Shanksville, PA
December 14, 2014 6:57 am
Do you know what kind of spider this is?
Signature: Pat Hockenberry

Shamrock Orbweaver

Shamrock Orbweaver

Dear Pat,
We believe this Orbweaver is a Shamrock Orbweaver,
Araneus trifolium, a highly variable species that according to BugGuide:  “occurs in a variety of colors.”  This individual from BugGuide looks very much like your individual.  Orbweavers, though large and brightly colored, are considered harmless.  They are docile and rarely bite humans.

Thank you so much.  This is definitely our individual.
Pat Hockenberry

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